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Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Oboe Concerto in C, K. 314 (1777)* [19:25]
Sinfonia Concertante for Winds in E flat, K. 297b+ [27:52]
Clarinet Concerto in A, K. 622 (1791)^ [29:10]
Douglas Boyd (oboe)*+
Richard Hosford (clarinet+, basset clarinet^)
Robin O'Neill (bassoon)+
Jonathan Williams (horn)^
Chamber Orchestra of Europe/Paavo Berglund*, Alexander Schneider+^
rec. no information provided
COE RECORDS CD COE 814 [77:07] 


The jewel case bears the rubric, "25th Anniversary Edition": presumably this repackaging of previous releases was intended to commemorate the Chamber Orchestra of Europe's twenty-fifth anniversary in 2005. Hard to believe the orchestra has already been around so long! 

The diversity of sources notwithstanding, these performances are well-matched: stylish, unashamed modern-orchestra Mozart, with a consistent interpretive approach. The first movements of all three scores sound unusually sprightly; the tempi aren't particularly fast, but there's an exhilarating buoyancy and lift to the phrasing. The slow movements flow and sing; any darker undercurrents are implied rather than underlined. The finales of the solo concerti are lively and unpressured; that of the Sinfonia concertante, an Andantino con variazioni, is easygoing and expressive. 

Douglas Boyd's Oboe Concerto originally appeared in harness with the Strauss Concerto, I believe. He dispatches the outer movements with perky articulations and pinpoint intonation, shaping the figurations with subtle, musical rubato. In the slow movement, Boyd uses careful, note-by-note dynamic control to fashion long, poignant lines; he even maintains interest in the discursive cadenza, attributed to Lester, which stops just short of meandering. The finale returns us to the spirit of the first movement. 

Richard Hosford's chipper, fluent take on the Clarinet Concerto is equally distinctive. If I've read the notes correctly, he follows the lead of other recent soloists in playing on a conjectural reconstruction of the basset clarinet - the instrument for which Mozart composed the piece, and which allows access to a few extra low tones the modern instrument lacks. Hosford maintains a seamless scale, yet manages, by timbral means, to differentiate and color three distinct registers within it. He infuses the clear, brilliant top tones with an airy lightness; there's a touch of velvet in the midrange - no obvious throaty tones in the register break; the low chalumeau notes have an unforced depth. The performance is lovely, with exceptionally poised phrasing in the Rondo finale. 

Authentic or not - the scholars are still arguing - the Sinfonia concertante for winds is a delightful piece. Boyd and Hosford - who switches to a modern clarinet here - are joined by bassoonist Robin O'Neill and hornist Jonathan Williams, who maintain an equally high standard. Their little duet phrases are breathtaking: the horn matches the bassoon's fluid ease; the bassoon simulates the horn's fullness. 

I'd not call the orchestral playing particularly trim under either conductor. The basses are guilty of the occasional unseemly rumble; on the whole, in fact, the strings sound more focused for Berglund, a full-time conductor, than for Schneider, a string man. But everything is shipshape and musically guided; in the Oboe Concerto's central Adagio, the strings' full-throated intoning of the broad melodies is a pleasure. 

The sound is fine, but the production slips up on details: the booklet credits a photograph of the COE that isn't anywhere to be found, and Berglund's name is misspelled on the front cover. Warmly recommended, if you've not already duplicated these pieces beyond satiation. 

Stephen Francis Vasta 


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